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NEAR TRUTHS:
NICE GUYS FINISH FIRST

FOUR OUT OF FIVE AIN’T CHOPPED LIVER: The House of Lipman is on a historic run. Thanks to Big Loud’s Morgan Wallen, Taylor Swift, Victor Victor’s Pop Smoke and XO’s The Weeknd, Team Republic owns four of the Top 5 spots on our Top 50 chart. Meanwhile, Ariana Grande and Post Malone remain in the Top 10. When did such chart domination last occur? The Bible informs us that a label has only had five of the Top 7 three times since 1996.

One of the remarkable things about this hot streak is that Monte is perceived, industrywide, as not only a talented guy but a good guy. He’s extremely well liked by his team; one never hears a bad word about him—except, perhaps, from the execs he’s outmaneuvering for a hot signing. Indeed, much of his success derives from the people-pleasing ways he mastered as a top promotion player back in the day. It’s rare to find anyone with a promo background leading a label nowadays as A&R tends to run the game. But Monte has always had an exceptional nose for what’s hot and can spot a mainstream smash like few others. Apart from his winning personality, that’s been the key to his dramatic success.

THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALLEN: The Morgan Wallen story is arguably the most significant development of the new year, as he shatters the ruling paradigm of the last several years by dominating DSP platforms—notably including Apple Music, where it’s been quite unusual for anything but hip-hop and R&B to occupy the top of the chart. The star’s streaming prowess has surpassed that of fellow country breakout Luke Combs, previously the poster child for the genre in streaming. Wallen has shattered all streaming records for country, and his 30-track Dangerous is a canny release for the moment. He owns more than 20% of our most recent Streaming Songs Top 50.

Even without touring, Wallen’s impact on the marketplace is remarkable. It seems beyond doubt that once he can hit the road again, he’ll enter the stratosphere. He began 2019 headlining 800-1,200-cap venues, then moved on to plum opening spots with Combs and Florida Georgia Line and some prime festival slots. He wrapped the year opening for Combs in arenas. 2020 saw him warm up for Jason Aldean. Starting this summer through fall, he joins Luke Bryan as a co-headliner. Manager Seth England and team have been adept in navigating this very challenging period. Wallen (repped for live by WME’s Kevin Neal) was prepared to headline last fall—sheds and arenas were on hold—and when he finally does, the response from the marketplace is likely to be enormous. Is he now officially the biggest artist to come out of Nashville since Taylor Swift? The comparison isn’t an idle one; his is the first country album to hold the #1 spot on the overall chart for its first three weeks since Taylor’s Red.

DRAMA CLASS: The word “arguably” in an above item qualified Morgan Wallen’s standing as 2021’s big story only because he is sharing the headlines with Geffen’s teen phenom and High School Musical star Olivia Rodrigo, whose colossal streams for “drivers license” left jaws on the floor as the year dawned (it’s at 1.35m ATD as of this writing). Rodrigo’s fellow Disney actress Sabrina Carpenter—embroiled in the sort of pop love triangle for which tabloids were invented with Rodrigo’s ex and co-star, Josh Bassett (himself a Warner signing)—has also enjoyed some vigorous streaming activity on the DSPs with the answer record “Skin” (Island). Clearly HSM and the associated Disneyverse command more territory in the popular imagination than most biz insiders realized. We recall that the Mouse House has, in one way or another, helped cultivate more than a few pop supernovas, from Mouseketeers like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake to boy band Jonas Brothers and such divas as Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez and Miley “Hannah Montana” Cyrus.

SHOCK OF THE NEW: As the above stories demonstrate, new artists continue to run the table in 2021. Even the most cursory survey of the DSPs produces a list of names that were unfamiliar just a short while ago—Lil Mosey (3.7m ATD for “Blueberry Faygo,”) 24k Goldn (“Mood,” 3.2m), Internet Money (“Lemonade,” 2.6m), Tate McRae (“You Broke Me First,” 1.5m), CJ (“Whoopty,” 1m), iann dior (“Emotions,” 865k), Ritt Momney (“Put Your Records On,” 729k), The Kid LAROI (“Without You,” 609k) and Yung Bleu (“You’re Mines Still,” 600k), among others. These burgeoning artists are all big earners based on streams alone; which will benefit most from the reopening of performance venues later this year and in 2022?

PROMOTION IN MOTION: There’s been considerable action in the promo sphere of late, led by RCA’s announcement of two new heads: Sam Selolwane (Hip-Hop/R&B/Mix) and Keith Rothschild (Pop/Rhythm/Rock). The two respected players, reporting to new COO John Fleckenstein, succeed longtime Nipper promo head Joe Riccitelli, who has just hung up the shingle for his multifaceted music company, Gold’n Retriever Entertainment. Is there a management, label or publishing deal on the horizon? Meanwhile, Capitol Music Group ups fastball hurler Greg Marella to President of Promotion and CMG EVP, expanding his brief after a banner year, and young, hot Nick Petropoulos ankles Daniel GlassGlassnote to join Team Arista.

NOT FESTIVE NEWS: The cancellation of June’s Glastonbury Festival is reverberating throughout the live sector, as other cancellations are expected and the first half of 2021 begins to look depressingly like 2020. What makes the situation even more dire is that if one big festival falls out—such as Germany’s Rock am Ring or Rock im Park—it takes a huge pile of money off the table. And if an act has no other engagements to fill those dates, it can throw off the economics of the tour entirely. After all, the act still has all the attendant expenses of being on the road during that period, without any income. So if Germany drops out of the equation, and then France, suddenly the act’s entire retinue has two weeks taken off the table. U.S. artists will be forced to forego the trip to Europe this summer—or they could lose a fortune.

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